by Jona Tarlin · August 4, 2015
Dan Fagan, Laura Lundy-Paine, Michael Vega | Samantha Bednarz
The Singularity by Crystal Jackson is not about The Singularity, an event that refers to the moment in which machines reach consciousness. It seems ill considered, then to name the play something so recognizable and yet in no way reference it or touch on it’s possibilities. Instead the play is about a woman in the dystopian (natch) near future who struggles to find someone to fertilize her very last egg. I am no expert, and a quick Google provided no answer as to whether this is actually a thing you can predict, but let's push forward anyway. She’s desperate, her plan upended when her insurance unexpectedly declines to cover her procedure as she’s strapped to a gurney. What follows is a long night full of wacky people and occurrences in an attempt to have the baby she never wanted before a couple of weeks ago.
Just as the title is misleading the set and opening image set the audience up for a very different play than what follows. The set (by Mikel Glass) seems to have been taken from a Grand Guignol play, covered with splashes of red paint and doll parts (in the part of the stage we later find out represents her apartment). There is even a chalk outline from a dead body. Additionally, our lead Astrid (Laura Lundy-Paine) is strapped into gynecological stir-ups, her arms also strapped down, legs covered with a sheet, struggling as the audience enters.
Nothing announces this is a comedy.
It’s a deep hole to climb out of, and one the play struggles with throughout. Jokes fell flat but not for lack of trying. The atmosphere was simply so dark and grungy that nothing was funny, no matter how wacky the events unfolding were.
And they tried, they really did.
She interacts with a German lawyer who lets her know he isn’t her doctor while inspecting what was under the sheet, a rushed real doctor and his nurse (Michael Vega giving the best and most self-aware performance in the play) who helpfully provides an alternative clinic when her insurance falls through. This is basically how the play goes, she finds a possible solution, something goes wrong but it leads her to the next possible solution, something goes wrong, and so on and so on. Instead of rushing forward and forcing the audience to play catch up the play’s plot is so simple that the audience is often three steps ahead and waiting for the play to simply get to what we have already figured out.
Crystal Jackson has also created a character that is frankly unlikeable (Other character’s tell Astrid this too) which, in a play about a character’s journey to accomplish a goal, makes it very hard to root for her. This is a character who routinely shows us that she would be a terrible mother while exclaiming to everyone she comes across how badly she wants to be a mother.
Which bring me back to the definition of the singularity the play is referring to. Instead of the technological singularity the play is referencing the physics term for “a point or region in spacetime in which gravitational forces cause matter to have an infinite density” something that is associated with Black Holes. Still a stretch for what the play is about, but closer. See she finally does get pregnant, but it is with Dark Matter.
If you’re intrigued enough by that to seek out the how and the why I won’t spoil any more. For the rest of you, I’ll say it is neither scientifically accurate (natch) nor highly theatrical.
It just is.
Like the universe.
You’re either on board or you’re not. And I wasn’t.